During his 2018 run for the Senate, Republican Mike Braun was getting a lot of attention for a campaign strategy that relied on self-funding, sweetheart loans from allies, and “creative” accounting to dodge federal election laws. Over three-quarters of his campaign war chest consisted of “loans” to the campaign; he’d continue to prop his campaign up with his own money until the campaign’s end.
Braun has been in the Senate for two years now, and the Federal Election Committee (FEC) has finally managed to come to some conclusions on which parts of that were illegal and which weren’t. The answer? The Braun campaign’s accounting wasn’t so much “creative” as it was outright shoddy and improper. Over $8.5 million in “loans”—a massive chunk of Braun’s total spending—that violated campaign finance laws, including $1.5 million in “loans” from Braun’s own company. Millions more in donations and disbursements were misreported, as well as six-figure repayments to Braun himself afterwards.
If it looked crooked during the campaign, surprise! The FEC agrees with you, and is demanding the Braun campaign answer further questions about all of it.
Braun is now flailing a bit in his response, as might be expected. His campaign’s defense was to claim to the FEC that their campaign treasurer, Travis Kabrick, had suddenly up and vanished on them. Sorry, he “has not been able to be located since the end of 2018.” So … sorry?
You see where this is going, right? Of course you do. The Daily Beast looked into this claim, and The Daily Beast found Travis, quote, “within minutes.” They were able to call his current place of work, find his social media accounts, and get his contact information.
“His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment,” reports the Beast.
While it is very good news that a single news outlet was able to help out Mike Braun and his campaign after their multiyear battle to hunt down the man they’re now attempting to pin all the shenanigans on, the scope and egregiousness of the violations would seem to make the campaign’s claims nonsensical. It wasn’t the treasurer who arranged an allegedly illegal $1.5 million “loan” from Braun’s self-owned company to Braun’s political campaign. It wasn’t the treasurer who cashed checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for supposed “self-funded” donations. And it wasn’t the treasurer who was making the calls when companies associated with Braun’s top allies were providing $7 million in unusual and conspicuously unsecured campaign “loans.”
So Braun himself is in more than a little hot water here, and the campaign’s going to have to answer for campaign finance “mistakes” that point not so much to accounting errors from an unskilled finance team as they suggest a truly massive improper funding operation from Braun and his political allies.
Will anything come of it? Who the hell knows. We’ve gotten used to lawmakers breaking whatever campaign finance laws they want to and, at worst, paying a few fines after the fact. But the “me and my corporate friends are going to finance the majority of my Senate campaign with corporate ‘loans’ provided with no collateral or assurance of repayment” is not an accounting error. It’s buying a Senate seat. It’s the sort of overt corruption that all of the laws were designed to prevent, and Mike Braun seems to have just waltzed right over the law to do it anyway.